The iconic statue of a woman holding a water jug outside of the county’s downtown administration building attracts couples who have just gotten married. Even on a chill, cloudy morning like Wednesday, friends and family take snapshots of brides and grooms in their formalwear near the harbor.

Shortly after 11 a.m., another wedding party walked out of the county building with their marriage certificate in hand, eager to collect the memorable photos. Only this time, a small crowd holding campaign signs for Stephen Whitburn had already gathered in front of the fountain.

The wedding party would have to find another picturesque backdrop.

Whitburn had gathered his supporters and invited news media to spread the word about his campaign this fall for county supervisor. He’s the Democratic challenger vying to unseat the longtime Republican incumbent Ron Roberts.

With a podium and no microphone, Whitburn projected his voice to overcome the passing trucks and tourists on Harbor Drive. He called for more jobs, more wildfire protection and ending a controversial grants program that allows supervisors to spend $1 million each year on nonprofits as they see fit — the hallmarks of his campaign so far.

But no matter how loud Whitburn spoke, or his 30-some supporters cheered, the region’s largest news outlets didn’t hear him. They didn’t show up. No reporters from the Union-Tribune or public radio. No television cameras.

The news coverage included Dave Maass, a San Diego CityBeat reporter, two photographers (including our own Sam Hodgson) and me.

In fact, the nearby wedding party had more cameras and almost as many observers as the press conference. A few passing pedestrians and a cyclist stopped to watch the press event.

It wasn’t the turnout Whitburn had expected. Since advancing from the June primary, Whitburn said getting more public attention has been his main goal. He’s been knocking on doors, visiting community groups and fundraising.

“Our understanding is that people who are aware of this (election) are getting behind this campaign,” Whitburn said after the press conference. “There is little doubt that if people pay attention we will win in November.”

Whitburn is expected to be competitive because more voters in his district are registered Democrats than Republicans. But if those people have never heard about Whitburn or don’t vote, his chances of unseating Roberts become a lot slimmer.

— Text by KEEGAN KYLE and photos by SAM HODGSON

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